As the months of mask wearing and lockdowns drone on, how are you doing?
Last spring, when we locked down and started to fight the virus, my focus was on survival. I needed to make a certain amount of money every day just to keep the bills paid, so 100% of my energy was on getting that income.
I made it, thanks to making the most of the opportunities in front of me, the stimulus checks, and a tax refund. Now I’m juggling three different jobs and starting to rebuild my emergency fund. I’m good until April, when hopefully there will be an uptick in tutoring. There won’t be a repeat of last spring’s grade forgiveness this year.
As the immediate needs cleared, the pandemic….didn’t. One of the biggest negatives to this lengthy isolation is that I’m spending way too much time alone with my thoughts, especially as the cold winter weather kept me indoors and at home. I realized I have spent so much time in survival mode—most of the past decade—that I have failed to do a lot of the planning and maintenance to avoid bigger crises.
Instead, when the unexpected happens, I fly into a panicked tizzy. I can’t think, I can’t breathe, I can’t find my way out of the box. I become a drama queen of epic proportions, making impulsive decisions that end up costing energy and time and money I don’t have, my mind racing through all the possibilities and breakdowns and failures and what else could go wrong.
No wonder I often feel like I’ve built a house of cards with my life, constantly holding my breath, waiting for something to blow it all down with one puff of air.
When you have a 20 step procedure to make a cup of coffee in the morning and have a panic attack every time your laptop reboots, everything is a ticking time bomb of calamity. The efforts to diffuse one stressor creates a downward spiral of compulsions and rules and steps. Suddenly, I’m trapped within the maze of my own creation, filled with dead ends and monsters with no way to escape.
Well, there are plenty of ways to escape, from going out for coffee or playing on my phone or watching Marvel movies or just dreaming. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit using these distractions to avoid the inevitable, but I always end up back in the maze with no end in sight and the time bombs even closer to 0:00.
The only way out of the maze of my mind…is taking one step at a time, moving to ease the anxiety and prepare for the emergencies. Like getting my oil changed. Scheduling the physical that was supposed to be my birthday present last year. (I’m going to have to figure out this calf-cramping issue if I have any hope of qualifying for Boston, right?) Even the baby step of making an Outlook task with whatever needs to get done, so I can start listing the steps that need to take place, gets me closer to the exit.
If I am going to live the life of my dreams, I cannot be so afraid of what life could throw at me.